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Armed with just a chopstick and needle, Sarah Lu is one of the most sought after handpoke tattooists in the UK. But things could have been different. It took her many years to find her calling.

Sarah Lu always had a flair for drawing but needed to make a living. So she wound up working in advertising. After 15 years in the industry, she felt the 9-5 grind was stifling her. Against the advice of everyone around her, she left a steady career and set off around the globe to learn the ancient art of handpoke tattooing.

She steadily got to grips with the technique on basic designs, but felt the method was holding back her potential to go bigger. So she switched to an electric machine. "I tried three times and I couldn't do it. I thought I'm not going to be able to tattoo these epic pieces, because of this bloody machine."

But she didn't give up. "I work better when things do hold me back. It makes me work 100 times harder." Turning her back on the tech and returning to stick 'n' poke, she set herself a mammoth task of completing an intricate raven, to prove she could super-size her work. After 50 hours needle in hand, cramped and exhausted, she finished.

"I literally went from small and simple, to this massive piece and then all my work flew from there."

She defied the norm and found success on her own. And Sarah Lu's just getting started. Her time this year will be divided between tattooing in the UK, and teaching at an orphanage in rural Vietnam. She first visited 10 years ago and made a promise to herself she'd do something for the kids there.

"Everyone has been trying to talk me out of it because there are so many reasons against me doing it, including my safety. But, of course, I'm going anyway."


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